Back in the time before cell phones and selfies, there were things called photo slides. Believe it or not, people use to gather for slideshows. Instead of posting your vacation pics on Facebook or Instagram for all your friends and family to see, you’d invite them over to your house and click through each slide, one by one. Imagine how many actual thumbs up or laughter your photos might get!
Over the holidays, my mother-in-law asked if I would take on the project of organizing and digitizing her parent’s collection of slides. I had the time and the interest, so of course I said “yes”. I never thought I’d get to live through history, and see some amazing memories that my husband’s grandparents had captured on film. If they were still alive today, I would have liked to ask them questions and hear them recount stories of their past lives. (I didn’t get to know them until the early 2000’s.) Some of the slides dated back to 1950. Lives when they were a lot younger. Lives during a different time period in society and history.
Which digital converter is right for me?
I started researching different methods of digitizing slides. There are places where you can send your slides and have them converted for you, but the price per slide ($19.99 for the first 32, and then .32/slide thereafter at Costco or $59.99 for 50 slides at Legacybox) did not make it cost effective. I purchased my own ‘film to digital converter’ for $149.99+tax and began the task of organizing and converting slides. In the end, I converted over 1,250 slides into digital files.
Researching which converter was the best for my needs was not the most fun part of the process. This is not really in my wheelhouse, so I read a lot of reviews and reports. I was converting 35mm slides, which is a pretty standard format. Check to see what type of slides you are working with before purchasing a converter. I actually ended up getting two digital converters. The first one I used was the Wolverine Titan 8-in-1 High Resolution Film to Digital Converter with 4.3″ Screen. It worked for a few weeks, and then I encountered the blue screen of death. Something caused the software to freeze and it stopped working. Fortunately, when I reached out to the company, they offered to troubleshoot the issue. When that didn’t work, they had me mail back the unit and sent me a new model, the Wolverine F2D Saturn Digital Film & Slide Scanner.
With my own photos, I organize them by month and year and store them on my computer with a hard drive backup. I probably should store them on a cloud photo service to save space, but I get a little leery about putting all of our family photos ‘out there’. There is already a ton of data mining and analysis occurring when we take photos and post or store them, or even when we Google or ask Alexa something. And yes, Google, Amazon, Apple, and Facebook all analyze your photos to some degree. Just do your due diligence and make sure to read privacy policies.
Let the scanning begin!
My process for organizing the slides was pretty simple: Group them into chronological order. The slides often had a date stamped on them from when they were processed, otherwise they were labeled by Grandma Shirley. Those that didn’t have any date were put into their own pile. How you go about organizing your photos is up to you.
It takes about a minute to completely scan, transfer, and then label/organize each slide. If the slides are dirty, you’ll want to clean them before you begin. I dusted some with a microfiber cloth before scanning. Which side of the slide do you scan? Slides have a smooth, reflective side, and a textured, matte side. The textured side is called the “matte emulsion”. Emulsion is the ink that was used to produce the image on the film. You’ll want to smooth side to be facing your scanning bed, so for my machine, the smooth side was on the bottom, and the matte side was on top.
After scanning, you have the ability to adjust settings such as color and brightness. The F2D Saturn comes with a 16GB memory card, so I would save the digital files on the card until it was full, then transfer the batch onto my computer.
Pictures can have so much meaning. What makes them even more fascinating is the history they hold. What will your kids or grandkids think when they look at your photos? Will they see a bit of themselves in your younger version? Will they realize how independent or well-traveled you are? Be amazed at the physical abilities you once possessed? Maybe they’ll question the changing fashion trends (although the athleisure industry has no signs of slowing down). Or if you’re me, you’ll wonder: Why was there so much wall paper everywhere?!?